FIREFIGHTER HIRING PROCESS COMPONENTS: From beginning to end
By Steve Prziborowski - Deputy Chief
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Becoming a Firefighter -
Where to Start
Typical Firefighter Hiring Process Components
General Hiring Process Assistance and Overview
The three (3) most important things to do first is if you want to become a firefighter are:
1. Start testing with various fire
2. Understand how to best prepare yourself to become a firefighter
3. Understand what types of events a fire department may put you through before you get hired.
1. FIREFIGHTER TESTING:
How do you find out when fire departments will be accepting applications? There are many ways to find out when fire departments are accepting applications. The best way is to pay for a service that will notify you of firefighting openings nationwide. The best services I have seen include:
www.firehouse.com - Members Zone
I strongly suggest subscribing to one or more of the above services because they will all complement each other.
2. HOW TO BEST PREPARE YOURSELF TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER:
Visit the website for Fire Alumni - www.firealumni.com - to find lots of great firefighter preparation information.
Visit the website for Fire Alumni Events - www.firealumnievents.com - to locate firefighter preparation seminars and events to best prepare yourself to become a firefighter and to make yourself stand above the competition!
CLICK HERE to download the PowerPoint presentation "Getting Hired as a Firefighter in 2013 - Being the Best Candidate you can be" which I gave in San Diego at the Firehouse World Conference. New!!!
CLICK HERE to download the PowerPoint presentation "How to Master the Fire Service Testing Process" which I gave in San Diego at the Firehouse World Conference. New!!!
CLICK HERE to download the PowerPoint presentation "25 Reasons to Hire you as a Firefighter" which I gave in Livermore at the 2013 Las Positas College Firefighter Workshop. New!!!
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "How to best prepare yourself to become a firefighter."
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "So, you want to become a firefighter - ACHIEVING THE DREAM."
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "How do I find out which fire departments are accepting applications?"
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "Developing your firefighter candidate research binder."
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "Organizing your firefighter candidate research binder into chapters."
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "Obtaining the necessary information for your firefighter candidate research binder."
CLICK HERE to download a FREE directory of California Fire Departments, courtesy of the California Professional Firefighters. This directory contains addresses, phone numbers, and website addresses of all California Fire Departments - paid and volunteer. A must have for every firefighter candidate in their pursuit of the badge!
3. WHAT TYPES OF EVENTS WILL A FIRE DEPARTMENT PUT ME THROUGH BEFORE I GET HIRED?:
To get a better idea of the firefighter hiring process, see the information below in the section "Typical Firefighter Hiring Process Components."
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(Click on each of the events or just
scroll down to find out more information as
well as some tips for success)
- Job Flyer
- Job Application
- Written Examination
- Oral Interview
- Physical Ability Test
- Background Investigation
- Psychological Evaluation
- Medical Examination
- Chief's Interview
- Recruit Academy
- Probationary Period
Before you fill out the job application, you should first review the job flyer. Every civil service position that is being recruited will provide some form of job flyer for the candidate to read and keep as a point of reference. Information contained on the job flyer usually includes:
- Minimum requirements to file an application
- Detailed information on the testing process
- Salary, benefits, and working conditions
- Job title
- Overview of the position / job description
- Overview of the department / community
- Final filing date
- Application filing process
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "Better Understanding the Firefighter Job Flyer."
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After you have determined or discovered that a fire department is going to be having a firefighter recruitment, the next thing you need to determine is how to obtain a job application. Virtually every fire department requires a candidate to complete an application as the first step of the hiring process. The application is one of the most important phases of the hiring process because if you do not fill it out properly, you subject yourself to being eliminated from the hiring process. Following directions is of ultimate importance when filling out the application.
Applications may be obtained a variety of ways: downloaded off of the internet (City/County personnel/human resources office or fire department website), picked up in person, or obtained in the mail. Some fire departments pass out an unlimited number of applications. Some fire departments only accept the first 50, 100, 500, 1000, 1500, or 2000 applications (which means you may have to camp out a few days in advance just to receive an application). Some fire departments require you to pick up your application in person. Some fire departments allow you to have someone else pick up your application for you. As you can see, there are many ways to obtain the firefighter application.
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "15 tips to successfully complete the firefighter job application."
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A resume is a "snapshot" of your knowledge, skills, and abilities. You should plan to provide a resume with every job application you turn in. While not every department allows resumes to submitted (during the initial application filing or during the oral interview process), you should prepare and plan that they do accept resumes. Many people confuse resumes with the job application. I look at it this way: job applications usually require you to provide ALL of your education and experience you have obtained while the resume contains WHAT YOU WANT IT TO CONTAIN.
For example, if you have held seven jobs in your life, you're going to be expected to put information relating to ALL seven jobs on your application. Since there are no exact guidelines to what goes on a resume, you can put one of those seven jobs on your resume or all seven of those jobs on your resume (depending on how much space you have available and how much you are lacking or have completed in regards to other areas (such as education, community service, certificates, etc.). Or maybe you have attended four different colleges in your lifetime. The job application usually requires you to list information relating to ALL of those colleges you attended. Put only the relevant colleges on your resume (may only be the two of them: the one you actually received a degree from and the one you are attending and have completed fire technology units at).
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "15 ways to create a better resume."
CLICK HERE to view an article I wrote for Firehouse magazine's Members Zone (www.firehouse.com) titled "Basic information that should be on your resume."
CLICK HERE to view the resume I used when I took the Captain's Test for my department (I was the only candidate out of 11 that scored 100% on the oral interview, and I ended up coming out number three on the overall list and getting promoted the first time I took the Captain's Test). NOTE THAT IT IS ONLY ONE (1) PAGE! Even though I used it for a promotional test, it can be utilized with minor modifications for an entry-level position.
CLICK HERE to view another style of resume that was submitted to me by one of the Chabot Fire Technology Students. It is slightly different from the one I used above, but it still is something different to get some ideas from.
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The Written Examination is usually one of the first steps in the hiring process for a firefighter. Most fire departments require you to have at least a score of 70% to pass and continue in the hiring process. While most fire departments do not use your score on the written examination as a portion of your overall ranking on the hiring list, they do use it as a way of "weeding out" candidates and making the overall number of candidates in the hiring process more manageable. Regardless, you should still strive to get a score of at least 90% on every written examination, and further strive for scores in the 95% to 100% range.
While scoring well on the written examination does not necessarily mean you will be an excellent firefighter, it does mean that you will be able to continue in the hiring process to the next phase (usually the oral interview), and it does assist your score if the fire department does make the score of your written examination a portion of your overall score (some fire departments have been known to make the written examination 50% of your total score and the oral interview the other 50% of your score, which is why you should be striving for the high 90 percentile). Also, even if 70% is the minimum passing score, some departments only take the highest written examination scores to continue in the hiring process (sometimes 85% to 90% or higher).
TYPICAL WRITTEN TESTS BEING ADMINISTERED:
Typically, when a fire department is offering a written test as part of their hiring process, they will purchase it from a private company that specializes in putting together written tests that are validated and job specific. Purchasing a written test from a company can be cheaper in the long run for a fire department, in both cost and time spent developing such a test.
There are not that many different companies that offer written tests to fire departments. Some of the more common written tests being administered include:
Fire departments are always looking at ways to save money, especially when it comes to entry-leveltesting. One way to do that is to eliminate a portion (or more) of the hiring process. FireTEAM testing was created to improve accuracy in pre-screening entry-level firefighter candidates and save staff time historically spent on multiple hours of oral board interviews. FireTEAM training was developed to improve firefighter teamwork skills and provide strategies for maintaining high levels of cooperation in the unique firefighter living and working environment. Both FireTEAM Testing and Training focus heavily on teamwork and human relations skills - aspects of the job that are critical, yet ordinarily not addressed in academies and other firefighter preparation programs.
FireTEAM Test Components:
Teamwork, public relations skills, mechanical aptitude and reading ability are measured by FireTEAM Testing. Although new hires receive specific technical training in the academy, new recruits with fundamental teamwork, human relations, or mechanical aptitude deficiencies require more time and effort to train and are less likely to be successful on the job than recruits with these competencies. FireTEAM Testing can help identify candidates' strengths and weaknesses before they are hired or even brought into the interview process, saving tens of thousands of dollars in recruitment, turnover, management problems and potential liability.
FireTEAM Video-Based Human Relations Test:
This is a
multiple-choice, video-based test of human relations skills specifically
designed for firefighters. FireTEAM covers many
performance dimensions related to being an exemplary firefighter, including:
- Positive versus negative influence on station internal relations
- Professional responses in difficult situations
- Situational judgment
- Positive relations with supervisors and management
- Professional behavior and bearin
ErgoMechanical Animated Aptitude Test:
This groundbreaking test is the most dramatic update in sixty years in assessing candidates for mechanical common sense. The paper and pencil approach to mechanical aptitude testing has been the only tool available since its development in the 1940's. This new test addresses:
Analytical problem solving
- Adapting and improvising
- Working with complex systems and sequences
- Understanding the physical world
- Anticipating predictable occurrences
FireTEAM Reading Test:
The FireTEAM Reading Test completes the elements in the testing battery. It is designed specifically for firefighters, a job requiring ongoing study of difficult and technical materials. The reading test addresses reading competency needed for the job.
FireTEAM Training is designed to address common problem areas that arise in a fire station, with a primary focus on teamwork. Fire Department managers repeatedly express frustration with human relations problems that arise due to uniquely close work and living circumstances experienced by firefighters. The FireTEAM training module focuses on internal relations including
Establishing and maintaining good long-term working relationships
- Constructively communicating with others when they do something that is annoying or offensive
- Responding appropriately to requests for behavioral changes
- Participating in and encouraging group initiatives, such as maintaining a clean and organized work and living environment
- Living compatibly with others at work
To take a practice test, and for more information about the FireTEAM Testing and Training materials, visit their website at: www.ergometrics.org/firefighter_test.htm
This is the same test that has been utilized recently by the Long Beach (CA) Fire Department and many more I would imagine.
When I was testing for firefighter positions in the early 1990's, the CPS written test was the most common test I encountered. I would venture that over 90% of the fire departments that I tested for administered a CPS written test. At the time (just like today), they only had about five (5) different written tests to offer. So, by taking every test you qualify for, you run a high chance of seeing the same written test again and again. Why is that important? Because practice makes perfect. Seeing the same test over and over again can increase your scores, assuming you are learning from your mistakes and obtaining the answers to the questions you could not answer the first time you saw that test.
Presently, the most common CPS written tests you will see today are:
- #2150: Entry Firefighter
- #2158-A: Entry Firefighter (EMT / Paramedic requirements only)
- #2179: Entry Firefighter
- #2199: Entry Firefighter
The above tests typically contain 100 multiple-choice questions, and you are allowed no more than two (2) hours to complete them.
In addition to the above tests, a fire department may also administer a supplemental test, specific to aspecialty the require to apply, such as:
- Firefighter Essentials
- Ground Ladder Practices
The above mentioned supplemental tests typically contain 30 questions pertaining to their related subject.
CLICK HERE to view more about the above information on their website.
CWH Management Solutions:
Selection Solutions is an entry-level written exam developed by CWH Management Solutions specifically for Fire Departments. It has been nationally validated in fire departments across the country and provides the most powerful selection process available.
This test incorporates the research on multiple intelligence (see further description below) and conditional reasoning to assess a broader range of job related abilities than traditional written tests. In fact, while most entry-level written tests simply measure cognitive (knowledge) skills, Selection Solutions assess several other dimensions (in addition to cognitive skills) that are critical for success in the fire service arena: Interpersonal Skills, Self-Awareness and Emotional skills and Practical Skills. Accordingly, there is no better selection tool for identifying well-rounded, motivated, and qualified individuals who have the intellectual, emotional, and personality characteristics necessary to represent a fire department.
For more information about CWH Management Solutions, visit their website at www.cwhms.com
It is my understanding that this written test is being utilized by numerous Southern California Fire Departments.
WHAT SUBJECTS ARE THE WRITTEN TESTS COVERING?
Written tests can cover a variety of different subject areas. However, the most common areas (also known as dimensions) that you are being evaluated on include:
1. Understanding oral directions
2. Reading and understanding written information
3. Numerical skills
4. Mechanical aptitude
5. Memory and understanding oral information
6. Teamwork / Public Relations / Community living
WRITTEN TEST RESOURCES: Preparation Books
DON McNEA FIRE SCHOOL - www.fireprep.com
One of the best resources I have found for written examination assistance is the Don McNea Fire School. Their website is www.fireprep.com and it has a wealth of valuable information relating to written examinations, among other things. Some of the items they offer to help increase your written score include, but are not limited to:
A book titled "Reading comprehension and mathematics."
CLICK HERE to view this book and find out how to purchase it.
A book titled "The Encyclopedia of Firefighter Examinations." This book contains 500 questions of various subjects including mechanical ability.
CLICK HERE to view this book and find out how to purchase it.
A book titled "Firefighter Selection Inc. 8th Edition Workbook." This book has 640 questions on areas such as tools and equipment, homeland security, fire chemistry, EMT, and standard operating procedures.
CLICK HERE to view this book and find out how to purchase it.
FIREFIGHTER'S BOOKSTORE - www.firebooks.com
Another awesome resource for fire and EMS related books is the Firefighters Bookstore in Huntington Beach, CA. I have been purchasing books there since 1993 and they always seem to have an excellent selection of all types of fire and EMS books, all at competitive prices. They are the best source of fire and EMS related books that I have found!
I have showcased below some of their books that will help you best prepare for the written examination:
|SMOKE YOUR FIREFIGHTER WRITTEN EXAM!|
By Paul Lepore
This book goes beyond providing sample questions and answers. It teaches readers the basic rules and principles behind the questions. You learn how to solve each complex problem. Each section begins with an overview of how to solve the problems. The reasoning behind the correct answer is presented in clear, easy-to-understand language. Sections include: Mathematics, Mechanical Aptitude, Language, Perceptual Ability, Spatial Relations, Matching Parts and Figures, and Map Reading. Yes, there are word problems, gears and levers and pulleys, inclined planes, screws, hydraulics and much more. Questions + Answers + Explanations = Success! for you..
|FIREFIGHTER'S ENTRANCE HANDBOOK|
By Davis Publishing
All-purpose preparation guide for entry-level firefighters. Provides guidance on the many steps that must be taken to earn a job with a fire department. This guide helps tackle the entrance exam: hundreds of multiple-choice, civil-service type questions and answers.
|FIREFIGHTER WRITTEN EXAM STUDY GUIDE|
By Art Couvillon
There are over 3,000 pieces of information and questions and answers that all firefighters should know when taking written exams for employment. Although this is the most expensive book we carry to help study for the written portion of the exam, the design of this book sets it apart from the others. It's 5-1/2 x 8-1/2, small enough to carry in a pocket and study in spare moments.
|FIREFIGHTER PRACTICE WRITTEN EXAMS|
By Art Couvillon
Over 1,000 questions. Ten tests of about 100 questions each. The exams are set up just like current entry tests: situation questions, mechanical questions, general knowledge questions, math questions. And, each test has an answer key at the end.
|THE COMPLETE FIREFIGHTER'S EXAM PREPARATION BOOK, 2nd Edition|
By Norman Hall
|Barron's HOW TO PREPARE FOR FIREFIGHTER EXAMINATIONS, 5th Edition|
By James Murtaugh
Extensive subject review with study tips and subject matter questions. Covers all firefighter exam test topics. Seven practice exams plus a diagnostic exam. Over 850 questions answered and explained. Practice exams include two FDNY and five composite exams that reflect tests given across the US. Detailed explanation of the physical component of the exam.
|FIREFIGHTER EXAM: THE COMPLETE PREPARATION GUIDE, 2nd Edition|
By Learning Express
Four complete tests based on official exams, with full-answer explanations, and hundreds of additional practice questions. Confidence-building explanations of what recruiters are looking for and what to expect from the selection process. Insider advice on preparing for the physical agility/ability test, oral interview, background investigation, and psychological assessment.
For additional written examination preparation materials through the Firefighters Bookstore, including books on math and other firefighting skills, CLICK HERE.
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The single most important component of virtually every firefighter exam that you apply for is the Oral Interview. Most fire departments consider your Oral Interview score to be 100% of your final ranking on the hiring list. This is usually your first interview with the fire department, and it usually consists of anywhere from two to seven individuals that are asking you a series of questions, the same questions they are asking of the other candidates. Individuals that are usually on this initial oral interview are firefighters, engineers, captains, battalion chiefs, human resource (HR) / personnel department representatives, and possibly representatives from the community such as community leaders, retired individuals, and ordinary citizens.
I recently had the opportunity to be a rater for my department's entry-level Firefighter/Engineer-Paramedic hiring process. While I cannot give specific feedback to candidates, I am able to provide general feedback. Even if you did not interview with our department, there is still some very valuable information I can share with you. Learn from the good and not-so-good candidates that we interviewed. CLICK HERE to download "Oral Interview Preparation Tips" - it will be worth your time and effort to read the information I have compiled.
The best resource I have come across in regards to improving your oral interview scores and gaining a better understanding of the Oral Interview process is Fire Captain Bob's website: CLICK HERE - you can literally spend hours on his website, gaining valuable information about what to expect in the oral interview and how to improve your scores. One of the best items on Captain's Bob website is his section on "30 plus basic oral interview questions" where he lists the most commonly asked oral interview questions.
An additional resource to assist with practicing oral interviews is 911 Interviews: 911interviews, Fire Fighter Video Interviews (A video based firefighter coaching/training site with over 130 videos dedicated to Firefighter interviews-help entry level candidates and those seeking promotional opportunities).
ORAL INTERVIEW RESOURCES: Preparation Books
There is a new firefighter oral interview book out now that every firefighter candidate should own! Smoke your firefighter interview, by Division Chief Paul S. Lepore, is an excellent resource that should help the future firefighter candidate better prepare themselves and improve their scores for the most important phase of the hiring process, the oral interview. I recommend this book to anyone that is pursuing a career as a firefighter; it is something I wish I had available to me when I was testing for the position of firefighter!
Paul Lepore is a Division Chief with the Redondo Beach Fire Department in Southern California. Chief Lepore has conducted hundreds of entry-level interviews as well as served as a rater for several Captains’ promotional exams. He has conducted numerous seminars to coach and mentor both promotional and entry-level candidates alike. He also founded EMS Safety Service, Inc., a first aid and CPR training corporation that certifies over 100,000 students each year.
Smoke your Firefighter Interview contains 330 pages of quality information
to help you receive the highest score you possibly can on the oral interview
portion of a firefighter examination. Virtually every fire department requires
the entry-level candidate to successfully pass an oral interview where you will
be asked a series of standardized questions by anywhere from three to seven
raters. Since the oral interview usually accounts for 100% of your total score
(and resulting placement on the hiring list), it is imperative that you get your
hands on as much information as you can that pertains to firefighter oral
Chief Lepore wrote this book for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career with the fire service. The majority of his book is made up of a series of questions and corresponding answers that are designed to familiarize candidates with situations and scenarios that typify life in the fire service. His goal in using the question and answer format is to help candidates think about the reasons they are interested in joining the fire service while preparing their responses to questions that will be a part of the interview process.
Smoke your Firefighter Interview is intended to provide candidates with a strong foundation on how to approach the more common scenarios and themes that come up during the interview process. It is important to note that although the book has been reviewed and endorsed by dozens of fire service “experts,” it’s still only one source of information. It is critical that each candidate analyze each situation, read the rationale for the answer, and develop his/her own thoughts and ideas. The candidate may not always agree with his approach to handling a situation, but at least they will have an opportunity to digest most of the common scenarios before the interview.
There is a new firefighter career
preparation book out now that every firefighter candidate should own!
The Aspiring Firefighter’s Two-Year Plan, by Paul S. Lepore, is an
excellent resource that should help the future firefighter candidate better
prepare themselves and improve their scores in all phases of the hiring
process. I recommend this book to anyone that is pursuing a career as a
firefighter; it is something I wish I had available to me when I was testing for
the position of firefighter!
Paul Lepore is a Division Chief with the Redondo Beach Fire Department. Chief Lepore has conducted hundreds of entry-level interviews as well as served as a rater for several Captains’ promotional exams. He has conducted numerous seminars to coach and mentor both promotional and entry-level candidates alike. He also founded EMS Safety Service, Inc., a first aid and CPR training corporation that certifies over 100,000 students each year.
The Aspiring Firefighter’s Two-Year Plan contains 274 pages of quality information to help you map out your career plan and best focus on becoming a firefighter.
Information covered within this book include:
Chief Lepore wrote this book for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in the fire service. Whether you are just starting out your pursuit to become a firefighter or you are a testing veteran that has not yet been hired, this book is for you!
Becoming a Firefighter: the Complete Guide to Your Badge! by "Captain Bob" Smith, retired - Hayward Fire Department.
Another book that will help you become a firefighter is by Fire “Captain Bob,” and is titled Becoming a Firefighter: The Complete Guide to your Badge!; I have to say it is worth your time, money, and effort to purchase and read. Captain Bob has put together 159 pages of information on various subjects such as:
Since 100% of your score in obtaining a firefighter’s job is in the oral board, what are you missing that’s keeping you from gaining a badge? The job interview is the most misunderstood and least prepared for portion of testing. There are countless candidates with great credentials, that can’t present their package at the interview. If you can’t present the package, you don’t get the job….period! Never! Ever! To quote Captain Bob, “Nothing counts ‘til you have the badge…nothing!”
This book should be in every firefighter candidate’s resource library, I highly recommend it! To find out more information about the book, including cost and how to order a copy: CLICK HERE
Additional information courtesy of Captain Bob relating to improving your oral interview scores:
From Captain Bob - Stories Get Badges!
We encourage candidates to lace their answers with personal life experiences. Since no one else can tell a candidate’s life experience stories they can’t be placed in the mold of a profile. They become unique, fresh and convincing. In a recent fire academy half the recruits were candidates who went through our program. You couldn’t tell one from the other in the oral board because they were using their own stuff. Not a profile robot “clone” of everyone else.
If you have all the education, experience and the burning desire to get that badge, you’re not getting hired, having to cool your heels in another position waiting for that next opportunity (not a bad ideal), you have be asking yourself why?
You can talk all you want about what we do here, how you want it or think it should be, but the candidates you are reading about in our material are a lot like you. They simply got positive results by putting simple techniques into action. The big difference is they figured out how to maximize the points in their oral boards, are now riding big red and taking home a pay check.
Here’s how they did it. Since oral board scores are
calculated in hundredths of points (82.15, 87.63, 90.87, etc), the goal is to
keep building on a few hundredths of points here on this question, a few
hundredths there on that answer, gaining a few more hundredths with their
signature personalized life experience stories at the appropriate time,
delivering the all powerful “Nugget” answers that no one else can tell, and
pulling away from the parrot salvo dropping clones.
Before the clone candidates realize what has happened, these candidates have added on extra points to their score placing them in a position to be invited to the chief’s interview where they get a real shot at the badge. Just being 1 to 2 points out of the running can decide whether you will go forward in the hiring process or not.
The toughest thing for candidates to do in an oral is to be themselves on purpose. Your stories establish a natural bridge between you and the panel. When you're yourself, you become conversational because you are on your own turf. This alone can lower the stress and the butterflies. Every one has butterflies. The trick is to get all the butterflies to all fly in the same formation than can make the difference.
Stories are more than facts. If you can recreate the excitement, emotion, the color and magic to relive the actual event, you will capture the interest and a top score on that question. A big part of getting this job is convincing the oral board that you can do the job before you get it. Stories are convincing and can demonstrate your experience, even if they’re not fire related.
One reason stories work effectively is because they go directly to the brain and entertain. They do not require the mental processing of more formal nonfiction writing. Stories have heart and ring true.
Collect illustrative stories as you are collecting facts, quotations and other information for your signature stories.
Practice those stories with a tape recorder. Condense them down to a couple of minutes or less. Don’t go on a journey. The oral board is not packed for the trip. You won’t have time and it’s not appropriate to use a signature story for every answer. Tell the story. Make the point. Move on. Once you answer an oral board with a signature story, you can marry the rest of your answer with those clone answers you have been using. Try it and see the amazing difference.
“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”—Joseph Pulitzer, (1847-1911) American journalist.
I was coaching a candidate one day and a candidate was giving me those clone answers why he wanted to be a firefighter. I stopped him and had him rewind the videotape of his life to where he first got the spark to be a firefighter. He said, “Oh, I’m from South America. When I was growing up, we lived with my grandfather who was the fire chief of the city. I got to go with him and be exposed to the who department.”
I asked if he had ever told that story in any of his oral board interviews? He said, “No”. Why not? I will bet you big money you are a clone candidate right now. But, I bet you also have some personal signature stories that could instantly change your interview scores.
I was doing private coaching session with a candidate. He was telling a story about being a federal firefighter in Yellowstone when it burned. The story was not too exciting the way he was telling it. I had to stop and ask, “It sounds like you were trapped?” He was. Now he tells that story and the hairs start standing up on the back of your neck. You’re trapped with him. You can smell the smoke and see the embers dropping around you. Does this story make a difference? Please say yes.
Case in point. I just talked to a candidate who was dumping only clone answers on the question “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” Then he realized he could begin his answer with a signature story. He remembered a story he could use about a prank being played on him when he did a ride along with his brother. He couldn’t believe the difference when he used this personalized signature story at his next oral board.
The story brought smiles and laughter from the panel
members. Along with the calls they went on by the end of the day he knew this
was the job that blended all his needs. He followed this story with his standard
landmark clone answers. This was the first question on his oral. His answer made
everyone more comfortable and the interview flowed a lot smoother than before.
Some say, “Captain Bob” how can you help so many candidates without making them into clones?” Good question. Simple answer. The real reason is nobody else can tell your story! Nobody! So the point here is not the question, but the answer. Start establishing your personalized stories. When you start lacing your answers with your personalized experiences is where you start to shorten that gap between you and that infamous badge.
Since 100% of your score in obtaining a firefighter job is in the oral board, what are you missing that's keeping you from gaining a badge?
The bottom line is that most candidates don't do enough interviewing to get good at it. This is also true for any job interview. You've got around 20 minutes for a 25+-year career. How are you going to stun the oral board panel to convince them to give you the badge over the other candidates?
In this and future issues of this newsletter you will be given tips, skills and the secret inside information on how you can improve your interview scores to put yourself in the best position to nail that badge!
Here we go. Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
Most candidates do poorly on their oral boards. The problem is most of them don’t know how poorly they are doing. I’ve seen it too often after being on over 100 oral boards. It’s the most misunderstood and least prepared for portion of the testing.
With all respect to the following comment, this is one of the most important clues why candidates have trouble in their oral boards:
“I recently had an interview, and I know my answers were great especially after hearing how another candidate answered them. He made the list, and I did not. Go figure!” Jed.
This is the problem! Most candidates think their answers are great, when they aren’t. If their answers were as great as they thought, they would make the list and get a badge. They listen to other candidates and firefighters who make them into clones. Have you noticed, that once a person becomes a firefighter, they are instantly the experts on how to get hired?
If you’re passing the written and agility, which are usually pass/fail, and you’re not placing high enough on the oral, that’s where the problem exists. What most candidates do if they don’t place high enough on the oral is go back and try to pack on more credentials. “Oh, I have to finish my degree or get through that academy” They do little to nothing in gaining the skills for the oral board, which is usually 100% of the score. If you don’t do anything to improve your oral board skills nothing is going to change, you will never, ever see that badge. The oral board is for all the marbles. This is where the rubber meets the road.
Stop looking in the magnifying glass at others . . . and start looking in the mirror at your self. That’s where the problem is.
Candidates who get this far in the process usually get discouraged and tell me they feel like they have hit a wall. They don’t know what to do next. Some of their friends (with fewer credentials) have been hired. They’re frustrated and embarrassed. If it can work for the village idiot, it will certainly work for you.
This is an e-mail recently received from a candidate. This is how fast things can change:
I ordered your Gold Package Program. I did this after noticing many of your students successful testimonies on the bulletin boards. I have many certifications including Paramedic. The only hindrance that I found myself with was not passing the oral.
Since ordering your program, I was nailing the interviews. Getting hired over the auxiliaries at their own departments, and with a heck of a lot less experience. Your program and techniques helped me excel past the other candidates. I even had one city Fire Chief personally call me at home to set up a Chief’s oral, (had to decline, due to the fact that I was at orientation for another dept.). To make a long story short, nothing counts until you have the badge, nothing. For all of the candidates out there that don’t believe this, try passing and ranking #1 on orals with a stuttering problem . . . I did. Thanks Captain Bob — Dave
Remember: “Nothing counts ‘til you have the badge . . . Nothing!” Ask Dave
Has any what you’ve read made sense? Would you go on an African safari without a guide? Then why would you go to an oral interview without a guide? Would you cross a river without a guide to show you where the rocks are so you can make it across the river without being washed away? Haven’t you been beat up enough yet? We would like to work with you to turn things around. It’s been said that when the student is ready to learn, the teacher appears. Are you at this point now? We can help you wherever you are in the process. From the written test, physical agility, resume, oral board, background, psychological, polygraph to the promotional interview.
We can shorten the learning curve to the closest point between you and the badge. Like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, we’re not going to give you anything you don’t already have. We’re just going to show you where it is. There is a badge out there for you. You just haven’t seen it yet. We will show you how to nail it!
It’s a great feeling if you can be a part of the change in someone’s life. Multiply that by over 2200 badges throughout the United States and Canada and you will understand that this is our reward. My Fire Captain son, Rob and I have a great passion in seeing candidates get a badge. This is serious work.
“Getting the job of your dreams is like winning the lottery!” Jerry Price, Firefighter
“You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”
The proof is in the badges!
"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . .
Fire "Captain Bob" Smith
How would you like to get ahead of the curve with the cutting edge interview skills to get that badge? Then you want to sign up to receive Fire "Captain Bob's" exclusive information rich FREE e-mail FireZine Newsletter by CLICKING HERE and scrolling down to "Free FireZine email newsletter."
Fire "Captain Bob" Smith is the author of the new book, Becoming a Firefighter — The Complete Guide to your Badge! He has coached countless entry-level and promotional candidates to get their badges. Over 2,260 candidates have received their badges from this program. He is a retired, 28-year veteran firefighter from Hayward, Calif. "Captain Bob" is a well-known speaker, author of the CD/DVD programs "Conquer the Job Interview" "Conquer the Promotional Interview" and the books Eat Stress For Breakfast and Fire Up Your Communication Skills. You can book him as a speaker or get a copy of his books and tapes by calling toll free at 888-238-3959. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website: CLICK HERE.
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By the time you read this, you should have already begun your preparation for the Physical Ability Test (PAT). Virtually every fire department will require you to successfully pass a PAT prior to getting hired as a firefighter. The majority of fire departments grade their PAT on a pass / fail basis, with a minimum time required to pass all of the events. Whether you are the person with the fastest time or the time that just met the minimum standard does not change your ranking on the list. There are a few departments that actually still make the PAT a percentage of your total score, which means the faster time you obtain, the higher score / rank on the hiring list you obtain. Be careful to read the job announcement to determine how you will be scored.
While there is not one standard PAT that is being used by all fire departments, there are a few that are being used on a very regular basis, most notably the CPAT and the Biddle. Those PATs will be listed below, along with links to information that can provide you with more assistance:
Firefighter Physical Agility Training / Health
& Wellness Website
- www.firefightersworkout.com - Items to assist you in your physical fitness workout.
- www.nasm.org - National Association of Sports Medicine
- www.testprepreview.com - an online FREE service offering practice tests in a variety of disciplines including the CPAT and the HOBET (used to get into some paramedic schools, such as NCTI)
- www.weightvest.com - Purchase a weight vest that is similar to the one used in the CPAT; a great resource to assist your physical fitness workout.
- www.911fitness.com - Fitness equipment, trainer certification and more
- health.allrefer.com - Comprehensive health site, medical dictionary, etc.
- www.firejock.com - Fitness tips for women firefighters.
- www.firefighter-fitness.com - Workout, photo gallery and t-shirts.
Types of Physical Ability Tests:
Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT)
What Is CPAT?
The Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) was developed to test firefighter candidates on their ability to perform simulated tasks consistent with the duties of a firefighter. It is designed to ensure that candidates possess the physical ability to complete critical tasks effectively and safely.
The CPAT consists of eight (8) separate events. Applicants must successfully complete the test in 10 minutes and 20 seconds or less. The test is a pass/fail event.
During the test, candidates wear a 50-pound vest to simulate the weight of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and firefighter protective clothing (“turnouts”). In addition, two 12.5-pound weights are placed on the candidate’s shoulders during the Stair Climb Event only, to simulate carrying a high-rise pack (hose bundle).
The eight (8) events are administered in a sequence that best simulates their use in a fire scene while allowing an 85-foot walk between events. To ensure the highest level of safety and to prevent candidates from exhaustion, no running is allowed between events. This walk allows candidates approximately 20 seconds to recover and regroup before each event.
The Eight Events of CPAT
1. Stair Climb
Using a StepMill stair climbing machine, this event is designed to simulate the critical task of climbing stairs in full protective clothing and carrying a high-rise pack. The event challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, lower body muscular endurance and ability to balance. During the Stair Climb, the candidate is required to wear two 12.5-pound weights on the shoulders to simulate the weight of a high-rise pack (hose bundle), in addition to the 50-pound vest.
After completing a 20-second warm-up on the StepMill, at a rate of 50 steps per minute, the proctor instructs the candidate to begin the timed portion. There is no break in time between the warm-up period and the actual timing of the test. For the timed test, the applicant is required to walk on the StepMill at a rate of 60 steps per minute for 3 minutes.
2. Hose Drag
The Hose Drag event is designed to simulate the critical tasks of dragging an uncharged hoseline from the fire apparatus to the fire occupancy and pulling an uncharged hoseline around obstacles while remaining stationary. This event challenges the applicant’s aerobic capacity, lower body muscular strength and endurance, upper back muscular strength and endurance, grip strength and endurance and anaerobic endurance.
For successful completion of the event, the applicant must grasp a nozzle attached to 200 feet of hose, place the hoseline over the shoulder and drag the hose 75 feet to a pre-positioned drum. When the candidate reaches the drum, he or she makes a 90-degree turn and continues an additional 25 feet. After stopping in the marked box, the candidate drops to at least one knee and proceeds to pull the hose until the 50-foot mark crosses the finish line.
3. Equipment Carry
This event is designed to simulate the critical task of removing power tools from the fire apparatus, carrying them to the emergency scene, and returning them to the apparatus. The Equipment Carry challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, upper body muscular strength and endurance, lower body muscular endurance, grip endurance, and balance.
During this event, the candidate removes two (2) saws from the tool cabinet, one at a time, and places them on the ground. The candidate proceeds to pick up both saws (one in each hand), carry them while walking 75 feet around a drum and returning to the starting point. The event concludes with the candidate placing the saws back on the ground, then returning them (one at a time) to the designated cabinet space.
4. Ladder Raise and Extension
This event uses two, 24-foot ground ladders and is designed to simulate the critical tasks of placing a ground ladder at a fire structure and extending the ladder to the roof or window. The Ladder Raise and Extension challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, upper body muscular strength, lower body muscular strength, balance, grip strength, and anaerobic endurance.
For successful completion of this event, the candidate must first walk to the top rung of the 24-foot extension ladder (while it is still on the ground), then lift the unhinged end and walk it up until it is stationary against the wall. This must be done in a hand-over-hand method, and it is not permissible to use the rails to raise the ladder. The candidate then proceeds to the pre-positioned and secured 24-foot ladder, stands with both feet within the marked box and extends the fly section hand-over-hand until it hits the top. The candidate then lowers the fly section (again hand-over-hand) to the starting position, which concludes this event.
5. Forcible Entry
This event uses a 10-pound sledgehammer and a mechanized device that measures cumulative force. It is designed to simulate the critical tasks of using force to open a locked door or breach a wall. This event challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, upper body muscular strength and endurance, lower body muscular strength and endurance, balance, grip strength and endurance, and anaerobic endurance.
The candidate must use the sledgehammer to strike a measuring device in the target area until a buzzer activates. The candidate’s feet must remain outside the toe-box at all times.
This event simulates the critical task of searching for a fire victim with limited visibility in an unpredictable area. The Search event challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, upper body muscular strength and endurance, agility, balance, anaerobic endurance, and kinesthetic awareness.
To successfully complete this event, the candidate must crawl on his/her hands and knees through a tunnel maze that is approximately 3 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 64 feet long, with two 90-degree turns. Throughout the maze the candidate will navigate around, over and under obstacles; and in two locations the candidate will crawl through a space where the dimensions of the tunnel have been reduced.
This event is designed to simulate the critical task of removing a victim or injured partner from a fire scene. The Rescue event challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, upper and lower body muscular strength and endurance, grip strength and endurance, and anaerobic endurance.
The candidate must grasp a 165-pound mannequin by the handle(s) on the shoulder(s) of the harness (either one or both handles are permitted), drag it 35 feet to a pre-positioned drum, make a 180-degree turn around the drum, and continue to drag it the remaining 35 feet to the finish line.
8. Ceiling Breach and Pull
This event simulates the critical task of breaching and pulling down a ceiling to check for fire extension, using a mechanized device that measures overhead push and pull forces and a pike pole. The pike pole, a long pole with a hook and point attached to one end, is a commonly used piece of equipment by firefighters. This event challenges the candidate’s aerobic capacity, upper and lower body muscular strength and endurance, grip strength and endurance, and anaerobic endurance.
During the Ceiling Breach and Pull, the candidate first removes a pike pole from the bracket, stands within an established boundary and places the tip of the pole on the painted area of a hinged door in the ceiling. Next, the candidate fully pushes up the door with the pike pole three (3) times, then hooks the pike pole to the ceiling device and pulls the pole down five (5) times. The candidate must complete four sets, each set consisting of three pushes and five pulls.
THIS CONCLUDES THE CPAT EXAM
PLEASE NOTE that this information is a general summary of the test events. It does not include the full description of each event, nor does it include failure points.
How Do I Prepare for the CPAT?
The job of a firefighter is one of the most physically demanding jobs in North America, and requires high levels of aerobic endurance, muscular strength and muscular endurance. The Candidate Physical Ability Test consists of eight (8) critical physical tasks designed to simulate the job duties of a firefighter on the fireground. This test is physically demanding and requires that one be physically fit to be successful.
A CPAT Candidate Preparation Guide is available for all candidates who wish to prepare themselves for this test. Click on the link below to obtain the Preparation and Orientation Guides. Every candidate should begin preparing in advance for this physical test.
Where can I get more information?
The City of Austin, Texas, Fire Department has some videos on their website that go into detail each event. To view these great resources, go to: www.ci.austin.tx.us/fire/cpathome.htm
If I want to take the CPAT on my own to increase my chances of being able to take more firefighter exams (because many departments require you to have completed a CPAT at the time of application), where can I take the CPAT?
Successfully passing the CPAT will allow you to receive a certificate that you can take to fire departments that require you to have completed one (because they are not offering it).
Where Can I Take The CPAT?:
1. The California Professional Firefighters (CPF) has opened up a testing facility in the city of Livermore (Alameda County) that will host the CPAT year-round. For more information, CLICK HERE.
2. The California Professional Firefighters (CPF) has opened up a testing facility in the city of Orange (Orange County) that will host the CPAT year-round. For more information, CLICK HERE.
3. The California Professional Firefighters (CPF) has opened up a testing facility in the city of Sacramento (Sacramento County) that will host the CPAT year-round. For more information, CLICK HERE.
Virtually every fire department requires a candidate to successfully pass a background investigation, before they are accepted into the recruit academy. This usually requires you to complete a "background packet" that can consist of up to 30 pages of information you are expected to provide.
Items that can be included and evaluated within a background investigation can include:
- Verification of ALL of the information you listed on
your application and/or resume (checking for completeness and accuracy)
- Credit history check (poor financial management can lead to disqualification)
- All vehicle accidents you have been involved in
- Your record with the Law (arrests, traffic tickets, etc.)
- Military related information (if you were in the military)
- Information about EVERY job you have ever held or have held for the past 10 years. This information can include name of company, name of supervisor, address/phone number of company, job title, job duties/responsibilities, salary information, etc.
- Drug use / alcohol use
- Any lawsuits you may have been involved in
- Family / relative contact information
- Verification of all residences you have ever resided at
- Verification of all of your certificates and degrees you stated you possessed
Things to do NOW to ensure you have your background information in order for your upcoming background investigation:
1. Check your credit report. Go to the website set up by the Federal Trade Commission: www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll free - 877-322-8228 or write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do this regularly to ensure there are no surprises!
2. Stay out of trouble with the law. Realize you're being watched and scrutinized, and be very careful about doing something that could possibly cost you a future career (such as getting a DUI, getting arrested, making poor decisions, etc.)
3. Complete a sample background packet. Do this to see what information you will need to collect NOW as opposed to at the last minute when a fire department is scrambling to get them done and putting you on a short time frame (one week or less). Granted, you won't be able to get all of this completed in one sitting, but that's why you do it now. Do what you can from memory and then start doing the necessary research to fill in all the boxes and track down the required documentation.
DOWNLOAD A FREE BACKGROUND PACKET!:
CLICK HERE to download a background packet that you can fill out (you are able to type your responses in the boxes) and keep as a reference tool so that when you get that real background packet to complete, you should already have the majority of the information they are asking for at your fingertips.
Even though this background is for a peace officer position (which most firefighters do not qualify as), this is very similar to what will be provided to you by a fire department if they are interested in hiring you.
NOTE: If you do not know any or all of this information at this point in time, you better do what you have to do to obtain ALL of that information very quickly. There is a background investigation in your future, don't wait until the last minute to get all the required information!
It is not uncommon to be given the background packet and be told that you have anywhere from 24 hours to one week to complete it. Not turning it in on the due date or turning it in incomplete is unacceptable! Remember, this is a portion of the hiring process and if you can't follow the directions or provide ALL of the requested information, you are subject to being disqualified from the process! Start obtaining the required information now!
KEY POINT: Make sure you make a copy of the background packet that you are required to fill out. Number one it will make it easier for you the next time you have to complete one because most background packets are similar in nature. Number two, it allows you a permanent record of what information you provided the department so you ensure you remember what information you had provided.
After you complete the background packet, it will usually be turned over to a person that will verify the information you provided. The person doing your background investigator may be a member of the local law enforcement agency, a member of the fire department (arson investigator, chief officer, etc.), or a person working for a private background investigation company that is probably an off-duty or retired peace officer.
It is not uncommon for the background investigator to contact all of your family members, your former and current work supervisors, your references and your former college instructors to verify the information you had provided. A good suggestion is to make sure that every person you have provided contact information for has been contacted by you in advance to let them know you are testing for the position of firefighter so they may be prepared to answer questions about you. This way, they are not blindsided by phone calls from the investigator. Also, if you put down a person's contact information, make sure they at least have something good to say about you. Ask them what they will say about you to the background investigator. This is extremely important because is is not uncommon to be asked during an oral interview "if we contacted a former supervisor, what would they say about you?" At least this way you can provide them with an honest answer, not just a "duh, I don't know."
Questions the background investigator might ask your relatives, references, or family members can include:
- Do you feel the individual would make a good firefighter?
- How well does the individual get along with others?
- Does the individual take any drugs or use any alcohol that you are aware of?
- What are the individuals strengths?
- What are the individuals weaknesses?
- Is the individual honest, ethical, dependent, hard-working?
- Would you rehire the individual (for your former supervisors)?
- Is the individual responsible, mature, accountable?
- Does the individual demonstrate common sense?
- How do you feel about the individual performing the duties of a firefighter?
- Is the individual have a tardiness or absenteeism problem (for your supervisors)?
- Has the individual ever been arrested or had problems with the law?
- Do you put complete trust into this individual?
Remember that nobody is perfect. Remember that the job of the background investigator is to find out discrepancies, falsifications, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies with what you have documented on your application, resume, and background packet. Any one of the above problems can and potentially will lead to your being disqualified from the hiring process. The key is to be honest and to not lie!
For more valuable tips on how to successfully complete and proceed through the background investigation process, visit Fire Captain Bob's website at www.eatstress.com section that is titled "101 Insider Secrets on How to Get a Badge" once there, scroll down to the section titled "BACKGROUND."
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One of the most critical portions of the hiring process for firefighters is the Psychological Evaluation. In many fire department hiring processes, it is not uncommon for 50% of the candidates applying for positions of firefighter to be disqualified during the psychological evaluation process. This is one area I do not profess to be an expert in. One resource I do know of for you is found on "Fire Captain Bob's" website at www.eatstress.com - he offers more information about the Psychological Evaluation as well as offering for sale, a research report he has put together specifically on this subject.
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The pre-employment medical examination is usually one (if not the last) step of the hiring process before an individual enters the recruit academy. The medical examination is usually administered by a physician that is appointed by the department (and paid for by the department) and is performed to verify the candidate is in good general physical condition. Body areas evaluated on this examination can include your vision, your hearing, any past and present injuries or medical conditions, and your respiratory capacity.
For some free information that will help you successfully pass the medical examination, visit the section on Fire Captain Bob's website - www.eatstress.com titled "101 Insider Secrets on How to Get a Badge" - once there, scroll down to the heading titled "MEDICAL."
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Usually one of the last phases of the hiring process is the Chief's Interview. You usually have a oral interview with a panel of individuals that could be from the ranks of Firefighter up through Deputy Chief. From there, many fire departments then take the highest ranking candidates on further through the process. Going through a Chief's Interview usually means that you are one of the candidates that are being considered for a position. Not every fire department requires candidates to also go through a Chief's Interview. If you do get invited to a Chief's Interview it could be with any of the following individuals: just the Fire Chief, the Fire Chief and a member or members of his/her executive staff (other ranking chief officers such as Assistant Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs, Division Chiefs, or Battalion Chiefs), or a few of the ranking chief officers without the Fire Chief. Every department is different.
Either way, the Chief's Interview is set up to find out more about you on a personal basis (versus the initial oral interview which is really used as an initial screening process to determine which candidates at least meet the minimum requirements to work for the department). While a Chief's Interview is a little less formal than the initial oral interview, it is still very critical that you make a positive, lasting impression with the individuals interviewing you. This is where the "buck usually stops" and they are determining whether or not you will fit the culture of their department.
A good resource for more information regarding Chief's Interviews is Fire Captain Bob's website, www.eatstress.com. He has a section dedicated to Chief's Interviews.
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When a fire department hires you as a firefighter, they will usually put you through a recruit academy lasting anywhere from one week to six months in duration. These academies usually run from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (or some other variation lasting from 8 hours to 10 hours per day) and last the entire week, from Monday through Friday.
In California, the typical length of a recruit academy is 8 weeks to 12 weeks. Even if you have already completed a firefighter academy at a community college (such as Chabot College) or through another fire department where you had previously worked as a firefighter, you will still usually have to go through a full academy (unless the department requires a firefighter 1 certificate and/or firefighter 1 academy completion certificate - if they do, then sometimes they only have a one or two week mini-academy to orient you to the way they do things).
Why would I still want to complete a firefighter 1 academy through a community college such as Chabot College if the fire department is going to put me through one anyway? Well, first of all, having completed a firefighter 1 academy at a community college allows you to apply for more firefighter tests since some departments require you have completed an academy just to take their test. Second, it is not uncommon for newly hired firefighters to be terminated (fired) during their recruit academy for various reasons such as poor physical conditioning, attitude problems, discipline problems, tardiness problems, substandard scores on their written tests and / or skills tests, etc.
Getting terminated by one fire department is not the end of the world, but it definitely does not increase your chances of getting hired by another fire department in the future. Going through a firefighter 1 academy offered at a community college first lets you know your strengths and weaknesses and proves to you (and others including fire departments) that you should have what it takes to get hired as a firefighter and keep your job as a firefighter.
Some of the community college firefighter 1 academies have reputations of being more challenging and demanding than some academies that are put on by fire departments for their new recruits. Successfully completing one of these academies not only looks good on your resume, but also helps set you up for success when you finally get hired by your dream fire department.
I was sure happy that I had gone through Chabot's firefighter 1 academy prior to going through the recruit academy when I was hired as a full-time firefighter. Many of my recruit academy classmates had NEVER been through an academy before (or had even taken any fire technology classes), and it really made it difficult for some of them because they were learning information for the first time and having to really study hard and for long hours in the evenings and weekends when the academy wasn't occurring. Since I had already been through an academy before (which had used the same textbook), going through my department's recruit academy was not that stressful because I was just reviewing and refreshing what I had already learned.
Many fire department recruit academies require you to maintain an 80% average on ALL written test scores. Not maintaining an 80% average can (and sometimes does) lead to termination! Are you doing this now in your fire technology classes? If not, then you better find out what it takes to increase your scores so this does not happen to you.
There are usually two different textbooks that are utilized in most recruit academies:
- Essentials of Firefighting, published by the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) - can be purchased at various locations including the IFSTA website, the Firefighters Bookstore and FSP Books and Videos.
- Firefighter's Handbook: Essentials of Firefighting and Emergency Response, published by Delmar Publishers - can be purchased at various locations including the IFSTA website, the Firefighters Bookstore and FSP Books and Videos.
It is my experience that most fire technology degree programs and academies utilize one of the above textbooks (at Chabot, we utilize the Essentials of Firefighting by IFSTA).
The typical day at a recruit academy may start off with physical conditioning/physical fitness, have you complete a multiple-choice written test, and then combine the rest of the day with lectures on various firefighting topics such as:
- fire behavior
- fire investigation
- fire prevention
- utilization of ladders and hose
- cultural diversity
- history of the fire service and of the department you are working for
and manipulative (hands-on) skills practice and testing on performing various firefighting practices such as:
- ladder evolutions
- hose evolutions (structure and wildland)
- individual performance standards (donning an SCBA, pulling a pre-connected hose-line, etc.)
- team performance standards (simulated fire attack evolutions, rescue procedures, etc.)
- rescue practices
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The probationary period, which is usually the last step of the hiring process, will either begin on the first day of the recruit academy or immediately after the recruit academy ends. Virtually every fire department has what is known as a probationary period for all newly hired personnel and newly promoted personnel. The probationary period will usually last anywhere from 6 months to 3 years, depending on the department. 12 months or 18 months is the typical length of a probationary period.
During the firefighter probationary period, an individual may be terminated for any reason. Reasons for termination can include not passing the required probationary written tests or skills tests that are usually administered every few months, not "fitting into the culture" of the department, having tardiness or absentee problems, or just having attitude or discipline problems. Upon termination, that specific reason is not required to be given to the probationary firefighter (or ex-probationary firefighter at this point) and should not be expected to be provided. Providing the reason on terminating the employee can lead to potential liability and lawsuits for a fire department. What usually occurs is that the probationary firefighter is told something to the effect of "you did not complete the requirements or expectations of your probationary period." End of story.
Don't let this happen to you! For some ways to help reduce the chance of getting terminated, visit Captain Bob's website at www.eatstress.com and look at his web page that discusses how to survive the probationary process as a new rookie.
At the end of the probationary period, the individual is usually expected to pass a comprehensive written and skills examination that covers all of the material that was learned in the recruit academy as well as on their probationary period. Successful completion of this examination leads to the completion of your probationary period and your transition to a permanent position as a firefighter for that fire department.
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Here are some fire department websites that provide general hiring process assistance that can be utilized for any fire department, not just the department providing the information:
Fire Department: Recruitment Information
- Austin Fire Department: Recruitment Information and Career Assistance
- Bakersfield Fire Department: How to become a Firefighter
- CAL FIRE (Formerly known as CDF): Careers with CAL FIRE Information
- Dallas Fire-Rescue: Recruitment Information
- Fire Department New York (FDNY): Employment Information
- Foster City Fire Department: Recruitment Information
- Los Angeles City Fire Department: How to Become a Los Angeles Firefighter
- Novato Fire Protection District: Recruitment Information
- Phoenix Fire Department: Recruitment Information
- Portland Fire Bureau: Recruitment Information
- Santa Clara County Fire Department: Recruitment Information & Career Assistance
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The Don McNea Fire School has a section on their website titled "HOW TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER" - this section includes excellent information on all phases of the hiring process, including helpful tips to increase your scores. They also provide a wide variety of services and products to help you with your pursuit of becoming a firefighter.
"Captain Bob" Smith is another valuable resource to you, the future firefighter. CLICK HERE to visit his website, which provides pages and pages of valuable (and free) information on how to better prepare yourself to become a firefighter. While the primary focus of Captain Bob is to assist the candidate increase their Oral Board scores (which is the most important phase of the hiring process), he does provide a wealth of information that relate to the other phases of the firefighter hiring process.
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